The airport in Wamena, Papua (Photo courtesy of the Transportation Ministry)

Airport Closed as Riot Breaks Out in Wamena

BY :ANTARA & TELLY NATHALIA

SEPTEMBER 23, 2019

Jakarta. A riot broke out in Wamena, the capital of the Jayawijaya district in Papua, on Monday morning after a crowd protesting ethnic and racial discrimination against Papuan students on the island of Java started burning some government buildings in the city, including the Wamena district head office, forcing local officials to close the Wamena Airport, Antara news agency reported.

The head of Jayawijaya Police, Chief Cmr. Toni Ananda, said police officers and Army soldiers have been deployed to subdue the chaos in some parts of the district capital this morning. 

"Police and soldiers are working to handle the situation and prevent the riot from spreading. Right now, the situation is under control," National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Dedi Prasetyo said in Jakarta this morning.

Dedi said he could not confirm information that the Wamena district head office had been burned to the ground.

"I can't confirm that information but some public facilities had been damaged [in the riot]," Dedi said.

Joko Harjani, the head of the Wamena Airport, confirmed it had been closed by order of the authorities since 10.30 a.m. Eastern Indonesian Time on Monday. There is no word on when it will be reopened.

On average, 120 flights go through the airport, located in the popular tourist destination Baliem Valley, every day. 

Three cargo planes managed to depart from the airport on Monday morning before all operations were shut down.

"There is no plane at the airport now," Joko said, adding that he will have to wait for an all-clear from the police and the local military office before he could reopen the airport.

Anthonius Praptono, the head of Sentani Airport in Papua's Jayapura district, said 20 flights bound to the Wamena Airport had already been canceled.

Flying is the most popular mode of transportation in Papua due to the lack of roads and the difficult terrain of the island.

Antara also reported another student rally in Jayapura, the capital of Papua, on Monday morning, which spread panic among the residents there.

Many schools in the city decided to send their students home for the day.

A few hundred students from Jayapura's Cendrawasih University had gathered in their campus to protest racist treatment and police brutality against their fellow Papuan students in East Java in August, according to reports from an Antara journalist in Jayapura.

The incident in East Java had provoked violent protests in several cities in Papua and West Papua that went on for almost two weeks last month before the police and the military restored order at the end of August.

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